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A recent study has revealed that people who are seeking to clarify their immigration status face many obstacles, and often experience “hostile environment” problems!

Migrant Rights Charity reports that thousands of people living lawfully in the UK are encountering delays with their visa renewal process, which then causes them problems under a so-called “hostile environment” policy.

People who are in the UK and are in the process of renewal have been given a status called “3C leave”. This means that they can’t work, rent a property or access healthcare while Home Office processes their application. Many face difficulties with landlords and employers because there isn’t any documentation proving your actual immigration status!

While most employers and landlords are unfamiliar with 3C leave, more than 30% of Ramfel’s clients have experienced difficulties while on such leaves. The reason for this is that employers and landlords often view them as lack of documentation which makes them anxious to avoid being fined due to renting or employing someone who might be in the UK illegally.

Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel): Offers Support with Immigration Casework

There is a process for immigrants who want to naturalize as British that requires four 30-month applications and the payment of about £2,600 each time. However, there have been delays in Home Office processing which means many find themselves in immigration limbo for further time periods.

The UK had an immigration policy introduced in 2012 that punishes employers and landlords who fail to conduct status checks on workers or tenants. This became an issue for people from the Windrush Generation because they had no documents proving their legal presence in the UK at all and then were unable to access driving licenses, healthcare, bank accounts or mobile phone contracts! Now we’re seeing these same difficulties faced by another set of immigrants due to a lack of understanding of ‘3C Leave’ Status.

Shantel Williams

Shantel Williams, a 29-year-old woman from United Kingston who has been living legally in the UK from Jamaica with her mother since she was nine years old is trying to obtain British citizenship through 10 years route. She applied for work at her local bookmakers this summer while on 3C Leave and her application to remain was in Home Office for the decision but was unable to convince the store owner that she is in the UK legally. When she explained that they could go online to do an employee check on the government website, he refused.

The system is very harsh and brutal, making it hard for people in her position. The Home Office decision-making process is slow and makes things hard! This has caused a huge impact on her life towards instability and makes you feel like you do not belong here.

Shantel Williams
Shantel Williams - Visa Delay
Shantel Williams – Photo Credit: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

The report of Ramfel has exposed the flaws in our current immigration system which leaves applicants waiting an average of 11 months for a decision. This means they spend almost one whole year without any physical visa document, even though government delays make it harder to get through processing employment verification checks which act as a safeguard for those on 3C leave!

Ramfel helped 329 people make further leave-to-remain applications, and in at least 31% (109 instances) clients faced some kind of detriment while on 3C Leave; 21 people were either prevented from taking up employment or wrongly suspended from work between January 2020 and May 2022.

Our guidance provides employers should provide people opportunities to demonstrate their right of work and should not discriminate against those who have applied. Those that do so break the law, according to the long-term vision set out by government officials for an eventually moving away from providing physical documents such as visas or passports in order make it easier on people when accurately reflecting their immigration status.

Home Office Spokesperson

The government’s hostile environment was shown during the Windrush scandal to trap and victimize British nationals. For those people on the 10 years route to settlement are lawfully resident in UK but stay on 3C Leave for a period of time without any physical proof of their immigration status. It should come as no surprise that they are frequently suffering discrimination with employment or when attempting to access basic services like healthcare etc.

Nick Beales – Ramfel

The lack of documentation is causing problems for both tenants and employers. “If you’ve made a valid application it’s invisibly extended by law but no employer will be able to see this which makes them reluctant to trust.

Colin Yeo – Immigration Lawyer